Conflict can arise in many situations. We may experience internal conflict when we seem to be torn between two ways of seeing something or deciding. There appears to be an option A and an option B, or we feel we need to decide between doing something for person A or person B. In both cases, we may feel that neither option will cause greater happiness and less stress. So what do we do?

First, it is important to ask the right question. What do I really find myself in the middle of? Is this really something for me to decide? Do I have any influence over it? Or can I observe and lean back? What is the conflict really about? Me? Some inner conflict in the other person that is related to their life experiences but projected onto me? Is there actually a conflict, or may I just be seeing a conflict, where when looked at from a different angle there is none?

Secondly, the answer may be beyond just ‘A’ or ‘B’. If you connect with yourself and hold on to your own unique path, you may discover that life is very seldomly black or white but offers a plentitude for those who take the time to step back, observe a situation, reflect on it, get more information from themselves and others, reflect again, get some more information, and then decide. In fact, all this can happen in seconds or minutes in many cases, because you may already have a lot of information. Then in many conflict situations, the conflict disappears once we realize that we are not really confronted with a binary choice. Instead, there may be a way to get what we need, value and aspire to without having to make an either-or choice. For, seldomly in life do we have to make a choice where we have to abandon the other option completely when we make a decision. How many time have you really been in a situation where you had to abandon an option for all times? The few obvious examples are rare exceptions usually.

Overall, when you are finding yourself confronted with an internal or external conflict, consider how much you can truly change the reality of the conflict by merely reacting to it. What if you let the situation be a guest in your reality rather than you being a guest in its reality? Think about your deeper needs and values. Rather than a quick fix, it may be a better long-term strategy to follow the path that aligns with what feels right to you and what makes the world a more livable and better place. We often think automatically that we need to maintain the status quo, but over the long-term, the status quo may not be so good. Just taping over a current conflict can make future ones the more likely. To understand what is really behind a conflict usually leads to more permanent solutions. Chances are high that some or all of the conflict has to do with what is going on in another person. Quite often we may find out that what looks like an internal conflict in us is actually an internal conflict in them. To distinguish where the conflict is located, it helps connecting with oneself and the other person. Take a step back and observe how you communicate with them and how they communicate with you. In these communication patterns you will usually find an answer to the question about the location of the conflict.

Openness, connecting with yourself and others can help resolve a conflict. A need for a decision may remain, but you no longer experience it as a conflict. All in all, a conflict is when you feel ‘informationally’ stuck. It seems there is no way to move in any direction. We may feel hopeless and helpless. But the truth is that we just do not have enough of the right information, which would let us transcend beyond the conflict. You may remember many situations where there only seemed to be a conflict at the moment, but in hindsight, it was a constellation of factors that were nudging you on to make a change, whether in the form of a decision, a change in perspective, or some other action. The difference between now and the time in the past when you experienced the conflict is that you now have more information about yourself and the world around and can look at it from a different perspective. If you still feel in the middle of the conflict proceed by taking a step back, observing, reflecting, getting information, reflect and observe again, while staying connected with you inner needs, values, and aspiration. Connect with any other person that is part of the conflict, and begin resolving it. You will very often observe that the conflict was not related to something you did or could have done differently. In other words, take the step back and reflect on a situation, when you feel there is a conflict, and try to determine where the issues really lie. Then think about what you can influence and what you cannot.

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Christian Jonathan Haverkampf